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How to Empty Mac OS X Snow Leopard’s Trashcan

Moving items to Snow Leopard’s Trash doesn’t delete them immediately from your system. You have to empty the trashcan manually. This fail-safe measure comes in handy when you’ve been banging away at the keyboard for several hours and you stop paying close attention to what you’re doing.

As with any folder, you can check the contents of the Trash by clicking its icon in the Dock.


After you double-check the Trash contents and you’re sure that you want to delete them, use one of the following methods to nuke the digital Bit Bucket:

  • Choose the Empty Trash menu item from the Finder menu.

  • Choose Secure Empty Trash from the Finder menu.

    Believe it or not, if you use the standard Empty Trash command, you still haven’t completely zapped that refuse! Some third-party hard drive repair and recovery programs will allow an uncool person to restore items from the Trash. Use the Secure Empty Trash method for those sensitive files and folders that you want to immediately and irrevocably delete; the data is overwritten with random characters, making it impossible to recover. (A great idea for that Mac you want to sell on eBay, no? In fact, if you like, you can reinstall Mac OS X before you ship the Mac, leaving the Setup Assistant ready-to-run for the new owner.)

  • Press the Command+Shift+Delete keyboard shortcut.

  • Click the Trash icon in the Dock, hold down the mouse button, and choose Empty Trash from the menu that appears.

  • Hold down Control while clicking the Trash icon in the Dock and then choose Empty Trash from the contextual menu that appears.

Depending on the method you select and the settings you choose in System Preferences, Mac OS X might present you with a confirmation dialog to make sure that you actually want the Trash emptied.

If you need to rescue something that shouldn’t have ended up in the scrap pile, first click the Trash icon in the Dock to display the contents of the Trash. Then rescue the items that you want to save by dragging them to the Desktop or a folder on your hard drive. (This is roughly analogous to rescuing your old baseball glove from the family garage sale.)

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